Beware of booking refund policies
Accommodation cancellations could cost you more than you bargained for
Many service providers who offer holiday accommodation are still battling to understand consumers’ rights regarding the cancellation of an advance reservation.
Some have a cancellation policy, but do not abide by their own policies while some do not give the consumer his or her copy of the contract, and later refer the consumer to the contract upon cancellation.
I had a personal experience when I tried to cancel an advanced booking I made with a Knysna-based company shortly after wildfires ravaged the area.
I cancelled my booking on June 9, but the service provider confirmed only on August 15.
They were hellbent on keeping my deposit until they had sold the reserved booking, a condition which was not included in their policy.
I was eventually refunded my deposit.
Mandla Dlamini, 56, of Katlehong, is another consumer with a similar experience.
He said he wanted to take his grandchild to Durban as he had never been to the sea.
Around October 9, Dlamini used the internet and found Cozy Nest.
He booked for seven days and paid a deposit of R3 000 without realising they do not offer breakfast.
Dlamini said when he realised this three days later, he immediately cancelled his advance reservation.
This was within the coolingoff period, but he was told he he might forfeit his deposit or they might deduct 25% of it.
He said he was not given a copy of the contract.
“I was within the five days cooling-off period and could cancel without a penalty,” Dlamini said.
They had charged him R11 500 for seven days.
“All I want is my deposit and I don’t believe they should be taking any cancellation fee when this was never brought to my attention when I signed up with them,” Dlamini said.
The Consumer Protection Act states a service provider can charge a reasonable cancellation fee, but must also consider the nature of services that were reserved and the length of notice of cancellation provided by the consumer.
The act also states that the service provider must also consider the potential to find an alternative consumer between the time of receiving the cancellation and the time of the cancelled reservation, and the general practice of the relevant industry.
Khanyiswa Peter, the manager of Cozy Nest, said Dlamini booked on a non-refundable policy. She said when he called he was told they do not offer breakfast during the December holidays, but should he choose to have breakfast they would charge an additional fee.
He then cancelled and was advised he should cancel through booking.com where he placed his booking.
Khanyiswa Peter, manager of Cozy Nest in Durban, says the cancellation policy is clear.